By Mikala Woodward
In May 2013, The Wing will open an art exhibit about race and racism in the 21st century. The show revisits a topic first addressed by the museum in 2004 in a groundbreaking exhibit called “Beyond Talk: Redrawing Race in Seattle.”
Why another race exhibit? And why now?
Well, the world has changed since 2004. A new generation is coming of age, with Barack Obama in the White House and the world at their wired fingertips. The Civil Rights Era feels like ancient history to these “millennials,” who live in a world of multiracial families, global mash-up pop music, and online social networks where race is seemingly invisible. With the U.S. “minority” population predicted to exceed its white population by 2030, some believe racial equality is surely just a matter of time.
Today’s youth are growing up in the long shadow of 9/11, in an age of economic instability and widening income inequality. They attend rapidly resegregating schools with persistently disparate academic outcomes. They are navigating a supposedly “post-racial” society in which race affects everything from college admissions to incarceration rates, from childhood asthma to whether a young man in a hoodie can make it home alive from the corner store.
Race still matters, these young people tell us — and we agree.
Talking Face to Face…
In the spring of 2012, The Wing embarked on a series of community discussions around Seattle. We wanted bring together youth and elders (and those in between) to explore what’s changed since 2004. What lessons can we carry forward from the struggles and triumphs of the past? What’s different now? What hasn’t changed? What kind of world do we want to create going forward?
These dialogues were rich and varied. From them, we drew the themes, messages, and people that will shape the exhibit that opens in May. We have convened a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to steer the project, and an Art Selection Panel has issued a Call for Art.
… and Online
We created this blog to accompany the 2013 exhibit for several reasons:
- We want to expand the conversation beyond our committee meetings.
- We want to engage a wider audience.
- We want space to explore the issues that come up as we develop the exhibit, and in the artwork itself.
- And we want to connect with the creative and powerful work others are doing around race, art, and youth.
We recognize the irony that the “Beyond Talk” exhibit has, eight years later, led us full circle — back to discussion, dialogue, conversation: More talk. We know that tackling racism requires courageous action — changing behavior, challenging institutions, and uprooting deeply ingrained power structures.
But we also believe courageous action requires motivation, inspiration, and vision — a new way of seeing the world and its possibilities. We know art has the power to move us this way (that’s why we are creating an exhibit, after all). Well, so does talk.
Talk is how we connect across racial barriers. It’s how we share our experiences and understand other people’s. It’s how we work together to build an exhibit, a vision for the future, and a new world of equality and justice.
So let’s talk.
About the Author: Mikala Woodward is the Exhibits Developer / YouthCAN Manager at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.